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Scotland baby unit gaps a concern

30th October 2008

A shortage of nurses is impacting on units dealing with sick and premature babies in Scotland.

Premature Baby

The premature baby charity Bliss has discovered that units regularly had to close to new admissions, leading to transfers and extra strain on families.

The figures - in the Bliss Baby Report 2008 - were based on a Freedom of Information request which every neonatal unit in Scotland completed and a survey of parents.

It found a shortage of about 140 specialist neonatal nurses in 2007, though the Scottish government has funded more nurse provision and is awaiting specialist advice on services.

The figures are an improvement on the previous year where estimate suggested a shortage of 200 nurses.

There are 53,000 babies born every year in Scotland with some 8,000 needing specialist care and about 1,500 requiring intensive care.

The report said: "The shortage of neonatal nurses combined with the high levels of activity mean that many Scottish units are overstretched."

Between April and September 2007, 43% of units in Scotland had to close to new admissions at some point.

The Bliss document concludes that health boards need to commit to a long-term recruitment and training strategy that "takes into account the rising birth rate and increasing demand for neonatal care."

Public Health Minister Shona Robison welcomed the contribution from the Bliss Baby Report but added: "While we agree with Bliss that services should be offered locally wherever possible, the highly specialised and unpredictable nature of neonatal care means it is sometimes vital to transfer babies or pregnant women."

 

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